I ran…


And ran, and ran, and ran.  Because I can. Medical experts predicted I would never run again.  And many said I may not ever walk.  Some said I would be lucky to wear a shoe and get out of a wheelchair. They were wrong.  And so I run.  And will continue to run regardless of the pain and obstacles that tell my brain I shouldn’t run.

Today I ran, simply because I can.  But the physical exercise is not the sole reason I run.  I need the time to quiet my brain, focus my thoughts, and clear my head.  When my heart is pumping and legs are churning I find the most clarity in a messy and chaotic world.

As I ran this morning, the words of newly crowned Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel echoed between my ears. “I swam until it hurt.” With thoughts of his accomplishment and years of rigorous training and sacrifice rattling through my head, I ran until it hurt.  They led to thoughts of my brother who recently completed his first Ironman Triathlon in honor of his son.  The pain and sorrow he has endured after the loss of his son is beyond my comprehension.  And so I ran until it hurt. The unbearable pain my nephew was in as he struggled to cope with losing his team off the coast of Japan brought tears to my eyes.  And so I ran until it hurt. 

The pain I feel while I am running reminds me I am alive.  It keeps me grounded in remembering I am not alone.  For we all have pain.  Each feeling it in our own unique way.  We each must find our own path to coping with the pain.  And so I ran…


Milkshakes and Medications


It has become a rarity to spend more than over night in a hospital room. One saved for only the most severe injuries or illnesses. Most procedures now are performed as day surgeries, new mothers are sent home as soon as possible and traveling health nurses often care for the terminally ill in the comfort of the patient’s home. During medical training, an attempt to impress compassion and empathy for patients upon hospital staff is made, yet with no frame of reference, nor how it feels to be on the other side of the bed, it is difficult for most to truly grasp.

Mid-night is mid “day” for graveyard shift. Making it normal for staff to laugh and share stories from home while working at the desk, standing in the halls or having lunch. With none of the daytime bustle of visitors or doctors, there is very little to dull the sounds from those conversations. During my March to May stay, often I was startled awake by a sudden burst of laughter only to then lie awake listening to some story I am sure would have been funny if I’d felt well or been told during the daytime. I choose to believe the staff were not purposefully rude, they were simply unaware of how it feels to be a long term patient attempting to sleep in the nightmare named “hospital room.”

If the volume of conversations and laughter were the only road blocks to getting rest, earplugs could suffice. But the light from the hallway, the door left open after a vitals check and medications given, along with the myriad of other functions that don’t stop with the setting of the sun make sleeping more than an hour at a time nearly impossible. Unless drugged into a coma, real sleep in a hospital setting is fleeting, regardless of time of day.

There are simple things medical personnel are capable of controlling which would make life more pleasant and restful for long term patients. Simply making sure their needs are anticipated and things they may need put within reach. My regular evening medical assistant was the rare exception and made concerted efforts to make nights just a little longer and a bit more peaceful.

Alicia was a young and bright soul, full of energy with an abounding smile. Always pleasant and cheerful during my stay, she never led me to believe I was a nuisance or interrupting her work. Making me feel like I was her only job and the most important patient in the hospital every time she was in my room. I had a plethora of nurses and medical assistants who were kind and attentive, but Alicia had a knack of meeting my needs before I knew they existed. Spending the few extra minutes necessary to extend the time between her visits.

When the day shift left for home, and the swing crew took over, the long and lanky brunet strode into my room as soon as she arrived simply to say hello and ask about my day. Alicia knew my visitors by name, even though many of them came during the hours she was away. She’d ask about that day’s visit with my kids and then before leaving to settle into her shift if there was anything she could do to make my evening better.

As solid foods were reintroduced, Alicia worked to find things that were not only nourishing, but also palatable with the after taste of drugs left on my tongue. After nearly a month of relying on IV’s for nourishment, my frail body was in desperate need of calories. Ones that wouldn’t come back up with the frequent waves of nausea from medications or pain. Long before I was eating much on my plate, Alicia’s 10 o’clock vanilla milkshakes became a nightly ritual. The sweet concoction was a greatly anticipated addiction. One that would take me months to cease after coming home.  The shakes would simply appear without a request as the hands of the clock neared 10. I would savor and sip on them while Alicia bustled around the room getting me ready for bed. All the while engaged in conversations about nothing in particular. Probably loaded with protein and vitamins, Alicia never left my side until at least half the shake was consumed.

Water was emptied and refilled with fresh. Catheter emptied, leg squeezing cuffs on and active, wounds checked, lights and blinds set, pillows plumped and set all around, extra blankets within reach, etc. Every detail checked and object arranged for comfort and sleep. The human contact before bed gave my brain a recent conversation on which to ponder instead of the worry of real life as I floated off to sleep. For at least 10 minutes, my needs became the focus of someone’s attention. But those 10 minutes, made my nights much longer and more restful.

In comparison, most night medical assistants were in and out of my room in the time it took to take my vitals and administer bedtime medications. Before I could even ask for fresh water, my toothbrush or the blinds closed, they were down the hall and in the next patient’s room. Leaving me pressing my call button for help frequently throughout the night.

I valued and appreciated everything about Alicia during my stay. But, it was only after I was home and reflected on the stark difference in care did I realize how taking more care and attention at bedtime, saved her time and energy throughout the night. And most importantly, allowed me to get the best rest possible. When I shared this story with my doctor during a post stay visit, he encouraged me to figure out how I can help train future medical personnel in understanding hospital care from the patient’s perspective. Maybe someday.

About a year or so after my stay, I was reading an article in the paper about a young medical assistant. One who’s experience and joy in helping patients at the burn unit led her to pursue a nursing degree. I immediately recognized the young woman in the photo as my milkshake queen, Alicia. The story captured her heart and actions perfectly. Wherever that nursing degree landed her, the facility, and her patients, are extremely lucky folks to have her administering their milkshakes and medications while providing great care.

Scars of the Heart


In March of 2003, two weeks post injury, I was transferred from Southwest Washington Medical Center to the Oregon Burn Center at Emmanuel Hospital in Portland. My children were nine and six. Larry, my husband, was a medic for AMR Ambulance doing shift work and I owned my own company. I scheduled work hours around my children. In their eyes, I was a stay at home mom and their primary care giver. My injury and hospitalization would rock their world.

Day to day household tasks generally fell on my shoulders. Although Larry participated actively when home, his schedule left me to shoulder most of the work, including our children. Facing an unknown future, two young and involved kids as well as a home to maintain, Larry bounced between scared, exhausted and frustrated. Life was simply out of his control and he had no ability to predict how long it would so remain.

In a child’s life, an hour can seem like a lifetime. Two weeks, an eternity. As medical staff struggled to figure out the cause and extent of my injury, I remained parked at Southwest Washington Medical Center for the first two weeks. During that time, Larry brought our children to visit every couple of days. They would bring pictures, talk about school, give and receive hugs and leave me in tears when they left. The contact was healing and necessary for both them, and me. I needed to know they were alright and feel their small arms wrapped around me, and they needed some reassurance their mom was still the same. They were too young to understand the severity of my injuries or why I wasn’t able to come home.

Those visits came to a screeching halt when I was transferred to the burn unit. Children under the age of 14 are not allowed to visit due to the vast number of germs they carry and the need to keep infection away from burn patients. It would be over a month before I would be allowed to touch my babies again.

Nothing can replace the feelings of a warm embrace or your child’s hand held in your own. My heart and body physically ached from a longing I wasn’t able to fulfill, one that had nothing to do with the constant pain wracking my body from my charred appendage.

Frazzled, and struggling to maintain some semblance of normalcy, Larry made lunches and ate breakfast with the children before dropping them off at school. After which he came and sat by my side until one the multitude of household duties required his attention.

The void in the room after Larry left each day was nearly unbearable. The longer I remained in the hospital, the more infrequent visitors became. People had lives to which they needed to return, children who needed care, parties and jobs to attend. I was left with more time alone than I had ever before experienced. Time stood still and felt like an eternity.

When awake, I would stare at the clock and imagine what my children were doing in that moment. Were they on the playground during recess, laughing in the lunch room, or solving the next math problem on the page? I wondered who would pick them up that afternoon? Would they sleep in their beds at home or the ones at their Auntie Bene’s? Who was cheering them on at the hockey rink or in the pool? Life was moving on without me. The pain of missing those simple moments felt like a dull knife turning in my chest. Did they know how much I loved and missed them? The simple and routine things that had made up our days seemed so far away. I missed the lively discussions about what movie to watch for “Friday Family Movie Night” or which game to play first on “Sunday Family Game Night.” I longed to read them their nightly bedtime story and could no longer recall the chapter book in which we were currently engaged.

I am told they equally struggled with their reality. Not knowing when, or if, their mother would come home. Their father did his best to maintain routine for their benefit, it still was different. Not wrong, simply different than how their mom did things. Emergency surgeries or procedures often left them not knowing who would pick them up from school or where they would be going for the night. Life for them during that time was simply unpredictable, unfamiliar and frightening.

It did not take long before my husband realized the nightly phone calls were not going to alleviate any of their fears. Knowing in person visitations were not possible, he devised a plan. Together with the hospital staff, the bed was turned slightly toward the outside window. My room was on the ground floor of the burn unit building, a separate facility a parking lot away from the main hospital.

Each afternoon, he picked the children up from school and drove the short 5 miles to the hospital. After parking, together they crossed the road, stepped over the sidewalk and pushed through the bushes. The ringing of my bedside phone would alert me of their arrival. After I opened my sleepy, pain filled eyes, I was greeted by two small faces barely visible above the window sill, a mobile phone in one of their hands. Broad smiles were worn by all. Each raced through telling me about their day as they passed the phone back and forth. I asked questions which were previously saved for the dinner table and worked to pull out more information as all parents skillfully learn to do. Patiently, Larry stood in wind, rain and cold, until the conversations stalled or an activity schedule needed to be kept. Never making them, or me, feel like it was a burden or he was in a rush.

When time came for them to return to their lives, good-byes, waves and kisses were blown. They turned and scampered off following their father, leaving me once again to only imagine what they were doing or saying in that moment in time. The world didn’t stop turning just because I was no longer participating in life. My reality was held within four walls.

The scars I bear from my injury are visible from my stomach to my toes. The ones my children and husband carry are inside, on their hearts. Though I know I did not purposely cause their pain and scars, the persistent guilt I feel hurts the same. Our family suffered this trauma together. We all just wear it in different ways.

One Morning in May


Surprises during my stay in the burn unit were infrequent and usually came in the form of bad news. In early May, a surprise gift arrived in the form of a visitor. The door to my room opened slowly and my husband peeked in to see if I was awake. After our eyes met and we smiled at one another, he widened the door and walked through, followed by my youngest sister, Jacky.

Living in Spokane, Washington, Jacky didn’t frequently come to Portland. She was busy chasing three young and involved children of her own. Our chats on the phone were infrequent and visits limited to yearly in Spokane. All aiding in my disbelief that she was now standing next to my hospital bed. Through my shock, I asked what she was doing here and she smiled her broad Jacky smile and replied, “I came to spoil you!” With a hug and a kiss, my husband stood, smirked like a man who had successfully kept a secret, and skirted out the door. Leaving Jacky standing with a gigantic handbag behind.

I soon learned my sister made arrangements for others to look after her brood and boarded a plane just to spend the day with me. A short 40 min flight each way for her, meant the world to me. The surprises that day continued. “I’m taking you to lunch,” she said. Since I had yet to leave my room except for the myriad of surgeries I underwent, I was a bit skeptical. And, a bit frightened by the state of my appearance.

Hospital gowns are not exactly a fashion statement. A Victoria Secret model would be hard pressed to rock one. By the beginning of May, they were all I had donned since arriving for what was supposed to be a same day surgery in March. Poor hygiene and bad appearance extended well beyond my attire. A brush found its way through my scraggly and now gray streaked hair perhaps daily, but maybe not. I knew my face and body were going to be washed only when a team arrived in my room. One armed with clean sheets and blankets. One with a new gown, towels and face rag. And a nurse to temporarily remove the humming machines and change my dressings. Having no attention in weeks, my eyebrows resembled Frankenstein and my finger and toe nails were ragged. Brushing my teeth daily was the only form of self care in which I actively participated.

Jacky is always put together, head to toe. It is simply in her genetic code to always look her best. She does so fabulously. I should not have been surprised that she had thought to make sure I would be pulled together before leaving my room. Carefully she unpacked her giant handbag and out came her tools of the trade. Blow dryer, curling iron, manicure kit and nail polish, make up and she even thought to have my husband grab a shirt and bra!

Throughout the morning there was laughter and tears, the kind only sisters can share. Stories and gossip from my hometown and family filled the air and we caught each other up on our kids. As we talked, her gentle hands brushed and styled my hair, dabbed on a bit of make up, and slowly manicured my hands and left foot. She carefully worked around the tubes and machines, never making me feel they were any trouble.

For a brief moment, I was able to push my pain aside to a corner of my brain. One that wasn’t sitting front and center. Distraction, I would better learn over time, masks your pain more than any medication.

After declaring I was ready for lunch, Jacky went out the door and returned with a nurse in tow. She worked with the staff to find a way to transport me to the hospital atrium and cafe. I was not yet ready to sit in a wheelchair and had machines that would remain attached.

Hospital beds do roll, but they are large and a bit cumbersome to move, or to sit in a crowded, public space. Along with the staff, they located a movable device that was a cross between a wheelchair and a bed. Small wheels like the bed, larger than a wheelchair, but mobile with a handle and reclined enough to have my foot stay comfortably propped.

Together they dressed me from head to waist and gently helped me into my chariot for the day. With the machines and poles carefully tucked in shelves on the underside, they wrapped the lower half of my body in blankets and I was given the green light to leave my room.

The tunnels under the parking lot leading from the burn unit building to the main hospital are long and dismally lit. For the first time, I got a view of something other than the row of fluorescent lights on the ceiling. The hospital attendant guiding our way and Jacky made small talk while I worked hard at controlling my nausea and the shock of pain felt at even the smallest of bumps. But, still tingling from the pampering at the hands of my sister along with the joy of leaving my room, I kept a smile upon my face.

The elevator slowly rose from the basement and opened into the well lit lobby space of the main hospital. The sounds of people laughing and chatting along with the clatter of shoes moving on the tile floors felt like a new wonder I was experiencing for the first time. The stories high ceiling and windows had light pouring in from outside. For the first time in months, I felt free.

After parking me at a table, the attendant departed and Jacky went to fetch us lunch and a coffee. Looking back, I have no recollection of food or conversations in the atrium. But I can close my eyes and return to the moment and feelings of selfless love my sister gave that day.

Each May when she returns to Portland and we enjoy our “sister’s day out” those feelings and memories return. I look forward to our day of laughter and tears, updates and reminiscing, and the bond only sisters share. But my heart will always hold a special place for Jacky for that one special morning in May.

Why I Write


Often I am asked, why are you writing a book? Before my injury, I had no interest in writing. I did not keep a journal, hated writing assignments in school and have no formal training beyond writing 223 in college.

During the months in my hospital bed, I took to jotting down my thoughts or feelings. At first because I couldn’t remember the answers to questions I was asked, and then because I found it cathartic and healing. I found myself writing things I wanted my children to know if I didn’t wake up from my next surgery, or how it felt to be running in the wind, or how much I loved and needed my husband and friends. I defined my core values and who and what is most important to me. My anger and pain were poured out on paper pages for no one’s eyes but my own. Some of those pages I still have, some are long lost. Whether or not I can hold them in my hand or they are imprinted on my brain, they still take me back and re-create those days and feelings.

Many months after my release, I was told, “You have a story to tell. One someday you’ll be ready to tell. And your strength will change lives.” That line still leaves me with tears streaming down my cheeks as I peck away at my keyboard. Telling me I am not yet ready to stand in front of crowds and share my story, but writing is bringing me closer. If I can inspire just one person who has a life changing injury or lives with chronic pain, the journey is worth my sorrow and re-visiting the past.

In a visit with my doctor seven years after my initial surgery, he shook my hand and said, “Congratulations. You have beat the odds.” He then proceeded to tell me the majority of patients who contract RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Nerve Disorder), the type of pain remaining after my injury, either attempt or succeed at suicide within seven years. He also said the majority of those who live, do so on disability and shut up in their homes not really living life. I have done neither.

I choose to continue to live a full and active life. Engaged in everything and everyone around me. And if my story, words and information help just one, there was purpose in my tragedy. So I will continue on the journey to get my story out in words. Thanks for joining me and being the reason I will carry on!

A Purpose in Tragedy Found


The spring sun pouring through the picture window rested on my pale cheeks. I tossed between eyes closed, reveling in the sensation of warmth, to wide open, enjoying the beauty of spring awakenings happening just on the other side of the pane. Deprived of natural light on my bare skin and the taste of fresh air down in my lungs for weeks, I had a longing and ache deep in my soul. An ache which only time, sun and the smell of the outdoors would heal.

The early days after my release from the hospital allowed little time for my husband to do anything other than juggle all the balls he had been handed without dropping one. In addition to full time parenting, schlepping our children, maintaining our home, cooking and shopping, our family still needed financial support. Mandating he also retained his 40+ hour work week as a medic for AMR.

Opportunities to make a quick run to the store were limited. Unable to move myself from place to place without assistance and like a toddler, not able to be left alone for more than a few minutes, Larry was chained to the house unless relieved by another caregiver.

With me settled in on the couch and the kids at school, it appeared his chance to make a run to the store that day had arrived. A quick trip was all that was required. The local neighborhood store would do. He wouldn’t be gone long, 10 maybe 15 minutes tops. Surely, he thought, I could be left alone for that period of time. As he gathered his wallet and keys, the sun sparkled off the chrome on the wheelchair staring from the middle of the room. Like a light bulb just switched on, a bright idea pounced right out of my head.

I could just as easily rest while sitting in the chair, outside in the sunshine, as I could on the couch. The ache in my soul drove me to plead my case. “Please,” I begged, “just help me sit on the front walkway in the wheelchair so I can soak up the sun and breathe real air.”

Knowing how stubborn I can be combined with his own mental and physical exhaustion, Larry gave in and gently lifted me off the couch and set me in the chair. After carefully negotiating the three stairs down to the front walk, he wrapped my pajama clad body tightly in a blanket, faced me toward the westward sun, and departed for the store. It never occurred to either of us perhaps I should also be left with a phone.

It only took a few minutes for the spring sun and fresh air to revitalize my spirits and give a burst of natural energy. The light bulb switch again snapped on and I decided I must visit a friend who lived just down the street.

Diane lives half way down the block just south of mine. A total of one city block with one intersection between our homes. With resolve and energy, I pointed my wheelchair with my right foot propped straight out toward the south and set off under my own power. My first adventure alone in nearly three months.

I felt exuberant in my new found independence. Having had little to no physical movement, except the effort it took to get to and from the restroom, my muscles and stamina were reduced to next to nil and soon were burning. But my desire to make my destination was temporarily over-riding the pain.

I made it to the corner and was thrilled the newly installed handicap ramps would make it possible to cross the street. The effort it took to negotiate the gentle hump in the middle left me winded and exhausted but I was determined to solider on. After resting a moment on the other side of the intersection, I resumed my trek toward Diane’s. Not yet able to see her driveway and having no electronic form of communication, I hadn’t a clue if she was even home. It didn’t matter. I needed to feel some piece of independence and ability to maneuver through life without the aid of others.

Passing the final few houses left me completely drained. When I arrived directly in front of her house, I felt my first wave of frustration and disappointment. Four stairs stood in my way of a knock on the door. I had no energy or ability to get myself out of the chair and up those stairs.

Wheeling myself a bit more south, I could see no cars were in the driveway indicating no one was home. Taking a deep and disappointed breath, I turned back north and pushed toward home.

Our street, a small neighborhood side street, is not particularly busy and appears quite flat. I had never noticed a slight downward slope toward the south. Until I began my journey home. So concentrated on my mission to reach Diane’s, I had not noticed the assist from gravity.

An immediate difference was felt with each arm stroke as I headed home. The uphill battle proved too much for my weakened body and inexperienced wheelchair skills. My resolve to get back home and return to bed was only enough to make it to the corner. I would still need to cross the intersection, which included the hump in the middle of the street and the slight ramp up and onto the sidewalk, to reach our house.

Despair set in by the time I reached the corner. I’d completed many marathons, swims and bike rides and never had I ever given up and not finished. This was one race I would not be able to complete. I realized Larry had no way of knowing where I was and his path home would take him the other way. My exhaustion and pain took over and I sat on the corner and cried.

As the tears rolled down my cheeks, a disheveled and dirty man with wild blonde hair and scraggly beard sauntered toward me from the side. Feeling very vulnerable and out of options, I looked up into his eyes. He asked if I was okay. I said, “No. I can’t get home.” He asked where I was trying to go and I pointed just up the street. “Would you like me to push you home,” he gently asked. I whispered, “Please.”

With my dignity and self-worth completely shot, I allowed this gentle stranger to wheel me home. All thoughts and fears normally associated with allowing a stranger to take you home were vacated by my inability to get there myself.

He turned where I pointed and returned me to my own front walkway. He asked if I needed help to get inside. As I was beginning to respond, I saw my husband’s truck round the corner and point toward home. Politely I said, “No, my husband is just pulling in.” With a nod of his head, he turned and walked steadily back toward the corner where our encounter began. My weak offer of thanks left to only reach his back.

I would like to think I’d recognize those eyes should we meet again. With the drug and pain induced fog in which I found myself that sunny afternoon, reality makes that doubtful. But the gratitude I feel will always live on, forever imprinted on my memories. Each time I encounter a ragged and homeless looking man, I find myself searching their eyes and looking for the kindness and good I found in my knight in shining armor from that day. While I may never know if our paths cross again, I still enjoy the feeling of knowing inside most strangers is a good and kind human being. Happy that chance meeting and experience allows me an extra piece of grace and humility whenever I encounter those who are less fortunate and opens my heart to lend a hand whenever possible. I believe in injury and tragedy there must be purpose. On that sunny afternoon, for me one purpose became as clear as the blue spring sky.

Pain in the Box


“I am sunburned and then someone takes sandpaper and rubs it up and down on my burn.” It took years of being asked, “How does it feel,” before I was able to find the words to describe the sensations I feel daily in my foot. There are other aches and pains associated with my injury, but the constant burning pain I feel does not subside.

Standing still, or waiting in a line create the most painful scenarios. Those where I am not able to use the motion of pushing off my foot to help move the blood through the depleted veins and arteries. Long periods of sitting where my foot is down causes the blood to pool, my foot to swell, creating a throbbing which only increases the ever present burning sensations.

Simple things like putting on socks or shoes shoot searing impulses from my foot to my head and screams NO! But a deep breath imperceptible by others and a moment of eyes closed and I am able to shove the feelings back down and tuck them away. The sheet rubbing against my skin, or the bumping of my bed, resemble a shock a toddler would receive when trying keys in an outlet. The first rush from the shower or the feel of water sliding across my scars as I swim do not elicit the comfort most feel. For me, it is simply another hurdle over which I must jump daily to continue to exist.

The cold. Oh the cold. It can be 80 degrees and most often my foot is numb with cold. With very little blood flowing through, there is nothing but my brain to help keep it warm. It takes focus and time to be able to use your brain to raise the temperature of a limb even one degree. A skill I had to be taught and must practice regularly. Surprisingly, I can usually raise the temperature 1 to 2 degrees within 10 minutes. However, it takes total concentration and focus which is often not possible.

Some days feel worse than others. Those are usually the ones where I am over tired or stressed. When too much information is plaguing my brain and I have no room left to cope and displace the pain. Those of us who live with chronic pain have two choices, live your life with the pain, or stop living. Since the pain I feel is the same when I am lying on the couch or when I am out with friends, I choose to live my life.

The smile and cheery disposition I generally display for others is simply one way I am able to cope. If I can appear normal and fine on the outside, at least others treat me as if I am not in constant pain and suffering. I do not want to be left to cope with the sympathetic look from others which I cannot stand. I find a positive attitude and exterior go a long way in placing my pain in a corner of my brain I can control. Like putting a mouse in a box. I know it is there. It is screaming my name, but when I am in control I can keep it out of sight and contained to the box.

Often I look deep into the eyes of others and wonder what demons, pain or challenges they have stashed away in their own boxes. For we all have boxes which we don’t want to open or share.

The beginning of the other side of forever


While many may not be able to recall the significance of March 19, 2003, for some of us, it was the day our world forever changed. Waking up from my day surgery in a sterile and cold recovery room only confused my brain which was clouded by drugs and pain. The retching following anesthesia was my post surgical norm, but the inability to tolerate the searing pain I was feeling in my leg was not. By noon, my bed was needed for the next round of patients recovering from the morning’s day surgeries. No drugs nor calming from my husband were bringing me any closer to leaving as projected. As I floated in and out of consciousness, I felt like I was watching a scene from a medical TV drama. Decisions were being made, information was being given, and I had no ability to participate or control the pain that was relegating me to stay.

To open up the recovery bay, I was wheeled down the hall and moved to a patient room. The trip I am sure was not long, but in that moment felt like an eternity. The florescent bright lights on the ceiling hurt my eyes. Muffled sounds from the PA were incoherent to my clouded brain and resembled a bad connection at the drive through. The smell of antiseptics and sick people made me even more nauseated than I was already feeling. But it was the bumping and jostling of the bed which sent me reeling. By the time I arrived in my room, I am sure the screams elicited from my mouth due to pain were frightening others in my new wing. At the very least, my husband soon realized this was not my normal post surgery reaction and his fears slowly began to rise to the surface.

I have no recollection of most of the next part of that afternoon. It was spent wafting in and out of a drug and pain induced stupor. The expectation I would be home bundled up on my own couch by noon became a distant memory and hope.

My mother and my best friend, Lorena, were on kid duty and at some point were called. Larry, my husband, would not be arriving in time to pick them up from school or take over parenting duties any time soon. A plan and immediate child care needed coordination and Larry needed support. With Lorena holding down the home front, my mother drove over the bridge only to arrive and find her daughter writhing in pain and Larry distraught. Nothing seemed to be working. Why I woke, and have memories of the next few minutes, I’ll never know.

We, along with the rest of the world, became riveted to the television. Horrified, we watched as our country started bombing Iraq and began the second war in the Persian Gulf of my lifetime. The sights and flashes of bombs going off on the screen resembled fireworks but the reality of real people underneath simply increased the nausea I was already struggling to control. Time stood still. We were frozen in disbelief and fear. Both from the real time war flashing on the screen hanging from that hospital room wall, and what would only be the beginning of the war to control my pain.

The distraction of war on Iraq did not mask the pain long. The nursing staff went through the normal late afternoon shift change. The evening nurse came on with no charm and zero empathy. While many details of the day and the weeks to come are lost or forgotten, the words elicited from that RN still echo in my head. In her first interaction with me, she asked about my current level of pain. Having no recollection of my exact words does not change my memory of the pain I felt at that moment. The top number of their pain chart with the 10 and the frowning yellow face, did not do justice to the raging burn sensation I was enduring. Her response I do recall, word for word. “Honey, you just had surgery. It is going to be a bit painful. You need to suck it up and get ready to go home.”

When she returned, my advocates, Larry and my mom who was a nurse, both informed her I had a very high pain tolerance level and I was not leaving without my pain reasonably under control. Nurse Ratchet, I have since named her, said if I wasn’t going to go home she would have to call my surgeon back in to the hospital. PLEASE, was my only response.

When the Doctor arrive, he was kind and concerned. The pain, I was told, should not be nearly as severe as I was describing. My leg was was wrapped from high on my thigh and nearly covered my toes. The dressings would have to be cut off to determine if there was a logical reason for my excruciating pain.

Nurse Ratchet brought in the shears while the Doctor went to re-don his white coat. Little did we know, what they would find when the bandages were removed would begin what would be the other side of forever. Slowly and carefully, the Doctor cut away the bandages. He began at the top and made his way toward my foot. Small one inch incisions with tiny stitches were revealed snaking their way down my leg and past my knee. Red, a tad swollen, but looking clean and as expected following a surgical incision. As the shears got closer to my ankle, the pain became blinding with the metal touching my skin. As I lay back on the pillow and the last of the dressing was pealed away, the air was sucked out of the room and the silence was deafening.

My first glimpse at what used to be my right foot saw a black, charred and bubbly skinned mass about the size of a football. Other than the big toe, it was unrecognizable as my foot. I would not be leaving the hospital that evening, or anytime soon. That day began my journey into the other side of forever.

Put on your big girl panties now!


I do not like the haunted houses, I do not like the scary movies, I do not like the frightening books. I do not like them in my home, I do not like them on my phone. I do not like them here or there, I DO NOT like them anywhere~! Until, last Friday night.

It did not matter that my friend, the Baron Von Goolo, owns the best haunted house in Portland. Nor did it help that I have been through his haunted houses with lights ablaze. The logical side of my brain is completely rational and knows they are simply actors in costumes, they cannot touch me and I will just be startled not harmed. The experience and fear I had as a child during my first haunted house venture left an imprint I have been unable to shake.

But, peer pressure led me to put on my big girl panties, bite the bullet and take one for the team. I spent all day using self-talk to get myself prepared to enter into the unknown. Time did not stand still and I found myself standing outside of Fright Town needing to make a choice: face my fears, or leave my friends and stand alone in the lobby.

My need to not be called out as a chicken and not wanting to spend an hour standing alone pushed me to the entrance of the first haunt. The childish screams and simply obnoxious behavior of the teens behind us in line were a great distraction for my own anxious fear. I refused to ruin other patrons’ experience with my own reactions.

To my complete surprise, I soon found myself giggling at the funny characters dressed to scare and entertain us. My admiration of the sets, robotics and completely cleaver props left me smiling and wishing time would go into slow motion so we could stop and admire the work of the artists. Before long, the reality of the fact I was having a good time set in.

So often we don’t step out of our comfort zone because of fear or past experiences. It keeps us paralyzed and stuck in our current patterns and behaviors.

If we want to arrive in a different location, we have to take a different path. We can keep doing the safe things, but we will never experience change.

Changing your eating and exercise habits can be scary. But unless you put on your grown up pants and step out of your comfort zone, you will never enjoy the rewards that come with change. To become healthier or lose weight, you must learn to face your fears and do something different than you have always done.

I still believe Fright Town is the best, and scariest, haunted house in Portland, but I now know how amazing and beautiful it is as well. Because I was willing and able to conquer my fears, I was able enjoy the rewards.

What leap of faith are you willing to take this week to help you get one step closer to your health goals?